Hallelujah! Racing returns to Irish shores on Monday. The hiatus felt interminable but time, as is does, ticked by.
I’m writing this piece on Saturday. This is because one of the temporary measures introduced due to the Covid-19 virus is 48-hour declarations. For a long time many people have banged the drum for this innovation and it mostly felt like banging one’s head against a brick wall.
All it took was a global pandemic to get some movement. Hopefully the powers that be in Irish racing will discover that they have nothing to fear from 48-hour decs. Many lasting changes have come in times of crisis. The Germans introduced daylight saving time in response to a coal shortage during World War 1.
My hunch is that 48-hour decs will prove just as enduring. They are a boon for punters, bookmakers and pundits. Hopefully, trainers and owners alike will surely realise it’s not actually that much of an imposition on them.
There are some showers around over the weekend. It’s fierce windy though, so we’re looking at quick ground. Now all we have to do is kick off the return with some winners.
GEE REX leaps off the page in the sprint handicap at 16:00. This four-year-old is still a maiden, which is not ideal. He was also probably flattered to achieve a rating in the low 90’s during his juvenile campaign and he massively outran his price in the Coventry Stakes.
His seasonal comeback last year came in a Group race over Monday’s course and distance. Again, he showed promise, but his season fell asunder after that. The good news is that because of that ignominious campaign he runs off a mark of 72 on Monday.
He surely has 10 pounds in hand and he also gets a trainer upgrade having joined the Joseph O’Brien yard. His draw in stall 1 and that should also help in this big field. The bookies won’t have missed this, and I expect the horse will go in favourite. We should still get reasonable odds and I’ll be surprised if he’s beaten.
The listed race at 17:05 has attracted a bumper field. Joseph O’Brien runs another recruit in the shape of Summer Sands. That horse boasts the highest rating here and he achieved that mark when finishing third at 100/1 in the Middle Park Stakes last September.
He was probably flattered. Pistoletto and the unexposed Southern Hills are interesting contenders from Ballydoyle. Hopefully that trio will make a nice price for the best horse in the race. ALLIGATOR ALLEY looks a real talent. His stakes race win at the Ebor Meeting last season was a real standout performance.
Despite being hampered at the start he beat two subsequent Group race winners hollow. His subsequent disappointments in Doncaster and at the Breeders Cup can be put down to issues with the stalls. Those issues remain a worry, but his horse is a physical phenom.
Perhaps his size causes him to get a little claustrophobic in the gates. I’ve faith that his fastidious trainer will have worked hard on ironing those issues out. The Alligator has all the scope in the world and I see him snapping up this prize on his way to the Commonwealth Cup in Ascot.
The other Listed race at 17:35 is a fascinating betting heat. I imagine Sceptical will be put in favourite, but whether he goes off jolly is another matter. He defied a notable drift to put up a massive figure for a handicap winner last time out in Dundalk.
The bridge to stakes company can be tricky though. Sergei Prokofiev is a smart, if quirky, sort. FOREVER IN DREAMS is another talent. Her placed efforts in Group 1 company last term read well.
She’s also far from exposed and looks ground versatile. It will take a fair effort from the boys to give her five pounds. She looks worthy of support here.
PARADISO is interesting in the maiden at 18:35. He’s a good looking sort as befits his regal pedigree.
He was beaten a fair way on both starts last term, but significantly both of those runs came on deep ground. His breeding strongly suggests that quicker conditions will prove optimal. He’s also an Aidan O’Brien-trained horse in first time headgear.
That’s usually an angle it pays to follow. It’s quite possible that the bookies will read too much into his form last year. I will back him to take this on the way to bigger things.
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